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Cutting-edge cuisine has its place, but sometimes you just want a hearty meal with your favorite comfort foods.

A dish
of pasta shells loaded with creamy, bubbly, perfectly browned cheese. A
sprinkling of spices. And all of it rich and gooey. That’s the mac ’n cheese at
Slows Bar B Q, a neighborhood joint in Detroit where the star side dish has
earned the nickname of “crack-n-cheese” thanks to its highly addictive
deliciousness.

There
are certain feel-good foods we universally reach for when we need to be
comforted. A fragrant bowl of chicken soup. A dose of silky mashed potato. A 10-napkin
serving of unctuous barbecue. Restaurant trends may come and go, but comfort
foods are forever. Fortunately, America is awash with restaurants where the
traditional never went out of style.

“As
everything around us changes faster than ever, there’s a comfort in things that
stay pretty much the same,” muses Salma Abdelnour, a New York–based food and
travel writer who blogs about her food adventures at salmaland.com. “There’s a reason why comfort
food is comforting…we know what it’s going to taste like, and we know how we’re
going to feel when we eat it. That kind of predictability is priceless.”

In this
era of food anxiety, it’s no wonder we sometimes feel the need to throw the
book away and tuck into foods that remind us of simpler times. “[Comfort foods]
soothe the psyche by reminding us of comforting childhood memories,” says Peggy
Trowbridge Filippone, a food columnist who writes about home cooking for About.com.
“For most of us, these foods are far from gourmet, and generally epitomize home
cooking.”

Of
course, the foods we tend to most associate with comfort aren’t likely to win
any accolades from nutritionists and dietitians. In fact, unapologetic
carb-loading is probably the single most satisfying element in a good comfort
food dish. When Filippone asked her readers for their favorites, they sung the
praises of such fat- and calorie-laden stars as meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and
fried chicken. (Strangely, salads didn’t make the cut.)

While on
the hunt for America’s best comfort foods, we stuck to tried-and-true dishes
that tend to evoke a sense of place. We found a bigger-than-Texas chicken-fried
steak in Houston, biscuits and gravy worth lining up for in Nashville, and a
chicken soup recipe handed down through generations in Philadelphia, along with
a host of other feel-good staples.

The
common denominator: all of them are unpretentious, homemade, and in most
instances, the kind of dishes that would cause a riot were the restaurants to
take them off the menu. About the only things you won’t find on our list are
any radical surprises. And isn’t that kind of comforting? —Emma Sloley

America's Best Comfort Foods

Cutting-edge cuisine has its place, but sometimes you just want a hearty meal with your favorite comfort foods.

A dish
of pasta shells loaded with creamy, bubbly, perfectly browned cheese. A
sprinkling of spices. And all of it rich and gooey. That’s the mac ’n cheese at
Slows Bar B Q, a neighborhood joint in Detroit where the star side dish has
earned the nickname of “crack-n-cheese” thanks to its highly addictive
deliciousness.

There
are certain feel-good foods we universally reach for when we need to be
comforted. A fragrant bowl of chicken soup. A dose of silky mashed potato. A 10-napkin
serving of unctuous barbecue. Restaurant trends may come and go, but comfort
foods are forever. Fortunately, America is awash with restaurants where the
traditional never went out of style.

“As
everything around us changes faster than ever, there’s a comfort in things that
stay pretty much the same,” muses Salma Abdelnour, a New York–based food and
travel writer who blogs about her food adventures at salmaland.com. “There’s a reason why comfort
food is comforting…we know what it’s going to taste like, and we know how we’re
going to feel when we eat it. That kind of predictability is priceless.”

In this
era of food anxiety, it’s no wonder we sometimes feel the need to throw the
book away and tuck into foods that remind us of simpler times. “[Comfort foods]
soothe the psyche by reminding us of comforting childhood memories,” says Peggy
Trowbridge Filippone, a food columnist who writes about home cooking for About.com.
“For most of us, these foods are far from gourmet, and generally epitomize home
cooking.”

Of
course, the foods we tend to most associate with comfort aren’t likely to win
any accolades from nutritionists and dietitians. In fact, unapologetic
carb-loading is probably the single most satisfying element in a good comfort
food dish. When Filippone asked her readers for their favorites, they sung the
praises of such fat- and calorie-laden stars as meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and
fried chicken. (Strangely, salads didn’t make the cut.)

While on
the hunt for America’s best comfort foods, we stuck to tried-and-true dishes
that tend to evoke a sense of place. We found a bigger-than-Texas chicken-fried
steak in Houston, biscuits and gravy worth lining up for in Nashville, and a
chicken soup recipe handed down through generations in Philadelphia, along with
a host of other feel-good staples.

The
common denominator: all of them are unpretentious, homemade, and in most
instances, the kind of dishes that would cause a riot were the restaurants to
take them off the menu. About the only things you won’t find on our list are
any radical surprises. And isn’t that kind of comforting? —Emma Sloley

Courtesy of Loveless Cafe

America's Best Comfort Foods

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